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Entries for 'Gary Pearce'

21
The 14 men seated on the front row were in or closing in on their 10th decade on earth. Some of them were bent and wheelchair-bound. A couple were spry and alert. Several had trouble hearing, even when their names were called and their courage recounted.
 
Seventy years ago, they were young men. Boys, really. Eighteen, nineteen years old, maybe in their early twenties. They went to war. They fought in combat in France. They liberated Europe. They defeated the Nazis. They saved civilization from savagery.
 
This week, in a ceremony at the State Capitol, the oft-reviled French thanked them. The French consul general in Atlanta bestowed his government’s Legion of Honor on the 14 North Carolinians. His news release said the ceremony was “to express France’s eternal gratitude to those who liberated it from oppression from 1944-45.”
 
Senator Josh Stein, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Governor Pat McCrory spoke, and spoke well. The consul general struggled with the language and pronunciations, but was heartfelt.
 
Still, no words could do justice to those 14 men, what they did and what they experienced.
 
One of them is my stepfather, Joe Dickerson, whom I’ve written about before. Joe was in the first wave at Omaha Beach. For three months, he fought across France, Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg. On Friday, October 13, 1944, between Aachen and Julich, in Germany, he was crawling through a wire fence when a German 88 shell exploded, killed the buddy beside him and wounded Joe in the arm and head. He woke up a week later in a field hospital. They shipped him home for a long recovery. He was awarded a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for heroism. He received a Purple Heart with four Oak Leaf Clusters. That means he was wounded five times in combat. He has so much metal in his arm that airport scanners go berserk when he gets close.
 
Joe went on to be a successful businessman and civic leader in Murfreesboro. He’s a quiet, modest, great-grandfather today. You struggle to see him dragging the wounded, bleeding but still living, out of the water on D-Day, under withering fire all the time. Or fighting hand-to-hand with German soldiers. Or taking out three tanks with a bazooka.
 
And there were 14 stories like his Thursday.
 
Secretary Marshall noted that they are called the Greatest Generation.  They are also, she added, “tough old birds.”
 
In a blog that celebrates politics, democracy and free speech, their names deserve our attention and respect:
 
-      George F. Tyson Jr, from Mebane, NC (Ret. Colonel, L Company, 399th Infantry Regiment, 100th Infantry Division)
-      John Salop from Charlotte, NC (Commander, USS. Charles F. Hughes)
-      Allen D. Evans from  Chapel Hill, NC (Staff Sergeant, Headquarters Battery, 76th Field Artillery Battalion)
-      Gerald M. Anderson from Pinehurst, NC (Sergeant, 16th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division)
-      Jessie O. Bowman from Granite Falls, NC (Sergeant, 345th Regiment, 87th Infantry Division)
-      Carl R. Britt from Conway, NC (Sergeant, 274th Infantry Regiment, 70th Division)
-      Donald F. Johnston from Cary, NC (Sergeant, Company L, 410th Infantry Regiment, 103rd Division)
-      Joseph H. Collie from  Durham, NC (Corporal, Company B, 397th Infantry)
-      James W. Toffton from Rock Mount, NC (Corporal, 555th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion)
-      Norwood McKoy from Wilmington, NC (Technician 5th Grade, 192nd Chemical Deploy Company)
-      Joseph Q. Dickerson from Murfreesboro, NC (Private First Class, Company E, 116th Infantry)
-      Richard L. Hammel from Murfreesboro, NC (Private First Class, 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment)
-      Paul E. Haney from Reidsville, NC (Private First Class, 80th Cavalry Reconnaissance troop)
-      James F. Sansom from Cary, NC (Private First Class, 1560th Service Command Unit Station Complement).

 

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20
Governor McCrory was checking off his 2014 Reset List. Teacher pay plan: check. Televised command presence in snowstorm: check. National face time on Face the Nation: check. New communications director: check.
 
Then a river of sludge called coal ash starts gushing out of a facility owned by his employer of 28 years. Then a U.S. attorney starts issuing subpoenas. Then a cook with a ponytail gets mouthy and the Governor gets blamed for getting him fired – and for being thin-skinned.
 
Now, even some of McCrory’s fiercest critics say the cook deserved to be fired. After all, he wasn’t – as the Governor would say, “customer-friendly.” And McCrory’s allies note that the DENR subpoenas also cover Governor Perdue’s time in office. Unfortunately for McCrory, she’s no longer in office and in charge.
 
This all just shows how, despite all their efforts to control the agenda, politicians often find themselves controlled by events. How they respond is the difference between triumph and disaster.
 
The Governor could have shrugged off the cook. Or sensed trouble when DENR Secretary John Skvarla vowed to spend two or three hours answering questions about the coal ash spill.
 
Instead, Skvarla beat a hasty retreat after one hour, with reporters shouting questions at him as he walked off stage.
 
So the Governor might be adding one more item to his list: Keep Skvarla away from the cameras.

 

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19
This is not what you call an ideal corporate PR juxtaposition. The Page One headline screams, “Damage from Dan River spill still unfolding.” From a Duke Energy power plant. On the business page, the headline says: “Duke Energy earnings up for 2013.”
 
In true corporate PR fashion, Duke’s CEO announces the profits. An underling is dispatched to handle the pollution questions.

 

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18
North Carolina’s unemployment rate apparently went up by one person this weekend following an encounter between Governor McCrory and a cook at a Charlotte gourmet food store. The Charlotte Observer reports that the cook was fired after making a critical comment to the Governor.
 
The Observer said: “On Sunday afternoon, McCrory was shopping at Reid’s Fine Foods when Drew Swope, a 45-year-old cook, said he asked if he could help McCrory. After realizing he was speaking with the governor, whom he disagrees with politically, Swope said he told McCrory, ‘Thanks for nothing,’ and walked away. Swope said the governor was upset at his comment and began ‘yelling’ at him. He said McCrory said he was a customer and shouldn’t be treated that way. He said the governor and his security team complained to the food store owner, who then fired him.”
 
The Governor’s spokesman disputes that account, saying the cook “made an obscene gesture to the governor during the conversation” and that Swope has said “things about physically harming the governor as well.”
 
This isn’t good news for a Governor who already has a reputation for being thin-skinned. Getting store employees fired is not exactly the way to ingratiate yourself with the public. It smacks of Thomas E. Dewey suggesting that his campaign train engineer be shot at sunrise.

 

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17
Last week summed up the obstacles and opportunities that Governor McCrory faces as he governs in a purple state where politics is played for keeps. And he saw how hard it is, even for a Governor, to dictate the agenda.
 
McCrory started the week trying to shed the Republican Party’s anti-teacher, anti-education label. He ended it trying to walk a fine line on climate change on Face the Nation. In between, he did what governors most like to do: put on a work shirt, got in front of the cameras and played Master of Disaster. Then he faced what governors most hate to see: a federal investigation into whether his administration is too cozy – as in, a felony – with Duke Energy.
 
McCrory came off best in the one situation where he had least control: storm response. Remember: the most dangerous place to be in a storm is between a politician and a TV camera.
 
But he found himself slipping and sliding when CBS’ Bob Schieffer surprised him by quoting a 2008 interview in which McCrory suggested climate change was a gift from God, not man-made. As usual, McCrory said he didn’t say what he’d said – on tape.
 
The teacher-pay problem is harder to skate away from. Judging from the reaction last week, McCrory and the GOP face tough sledding there (okay, enough with the ice and snow jokes).
 
The real thin ice (sorry, I can’t help it) is the federal probe into DENR-Duke. Recent political history right here at home shows how politically dangerous that can be.
 
Stay tuned. Season Two of our own House of Cards is just getting started.

 

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14
Instead of exploiting the Tea Party’s war on Establishment Republicans, Randy Voller seems set on replicating it in the Democratic Party.
 
Behind this week’s chaos is a history of hostilities between some party activists and what they see as the Establishment Enemy: elected officials in Raleigh and consultants who help elect them. It goes back to Howard Dean’s candidacy in 2004, which brought in enthusiastic grassroots activists, and Jerry Meek’s election as chair in 2005.
 
Meek did a good job keeping everybody together. But Voller seems intent on keeping himself in power by driving a wedge. According to one party leader, Voller said he fired ex-ED Robert Dempsey because he “spent too much time working with the Hagan campaign.”
 
Hello? Too much time working on a race vital to North Carolina’s future, not to mention a majority in the United States Senate?
 
To get a full picture of the chaos, read the first-hand account by WRAL’s Mark Binker of Voller’s statewide conference call with party leaders Tuesday night. One person on the call texted: “Randy is selectively muting opponents, kicking reporters off the line….It’s like a dictatorship.”
 
Voller defends himself and his plan to make Ben Chavis ED of the party by saying it will “fire up the base.” But parties that focus solely on firing up the base forget to win a majority. Successful parties, like Democrats in the 1990s and President Obama (who disavowed Chavis’ support in 2008) do both.
 
The Tea Party is about to drive the Republican Party off a cliff. Why should the North Carolina Democratic Party join them?

 

 

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12
This blog is a tribute to my late father, Jim.
 
He was a printer all his life, first at Parker Brothers Newspapers in Ahoskie and then at The News & Observer. For many years, he was foreman of the N&O composing room.
 
Those were the days when newspapers were produced with hot metal type. Each column on each page had to be filled. On news pages, short items were used as filler. On advertising pages, especially the many classified-ad pages in those days before the Internet, the composing room used house ads promoting the paper.
 
On snow days, Dad would make up an alternative set of filler ads. They came in all type sizes, column widths and lengths. They all said the same thing: “Feed the Birds.”
 
When you opened your paper in the morning, you’d find them on every page. Sometimes two or three a page. “Feed the Birds.”
 
I like to think that millions of birds across Eastern North Carolina ate on those cold, snowy days because of Dad.
 
So this morning I stopped by Ace. Everybody else was in line with ice-melt and snow shovels. I got a big bag of bird seed. Tomorrow, when the ground is covered in white, we’ll throw out the seed. We’ll be rewarded with a colorful fluttering of wings. The dogs will go crazy at the door. The birds will thank Jim, and I’ll think of him.
 
Feed the birds.

 

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12
Jim Hunt still drives Republicans crazy. Governor McCrory and GOP leaders scheduled their pay-raise rollout in Jamestown just as Hunt’s Emerging Issues Forum was starting in Raleigh. They wanted to steal the spotlight. But they just spotlighted their own shortcomings.
 
Just as Hunt was saying ALL teachers should get a raise, McCrory & Co. were promising a raise to SOME teachers.
 
Some teachers may buy it. At first. But soon they’ll realize they’ve been had.
 
What kind of company would give a raise to its newest, rawest employees, but stiff its most experienced, capable people? Plus dump more duties and performance measures on them all. Plus treat them all with contempt and a total lack of respect.
 
The GOP plan is a political sham cooked up to deal with a political problem. It also looks like a thinly-veiled slap at NCAE, which has a lot of experienced, activist teachers.
 
Hunt’s Forum dove deep into what’s right and wrong with the teaching profession in North Carolina. What’s right is that we have a lot of great teachers, despite all we’ve done to run them off. What’s wrong is pay, first, and pay has to be raised significantly. But teachers also deserve respect and autonomy. They deserve a fair system of testing. They deserve to be heard in Raleigh.
 
They will never get that from McCrory and the GOP, even if they do get an election-year pay raise. Some of them, that is.

 

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11
Democrats should be feeling good today. Then Randy Voller comes along.
 
First, tens of thousands of people march in Raleigh. Their numbers show the depth of anger at Republicans in Raleigh – and the potential impact in November.
 
Then Governor McCrory and Republican legislative leaders reveal two things: They’re scared that voters will punish them for the damage they’ve done to teachers and public schools, and they have no clue what to do about it.
 
Then, as election filing begins, an all-star team of Democratic candidates runs onto the field, from Sarah Crawford in Wake-Franklin to Sue Counts in Watauga/Ashe.
 
But, then, Voller abruptly fires an ED who had begun to restore confidence in the party and apparently sets his mind on appointing to the post the most divisive, controversial figure he can find.
 
Thomas Mills may have the only logical explanation for Voller: “What if he’s a Republican plant?” A Manchurian chairman, if you will.
 
It may be that smart Democratic lawyers can figure a way to work around the party. It has pretty much been marginalized anyway. And maybe Republicans will get so fixated on making Chavis and William Barber the faces of the Democratic Party that they’ll forget about education.
 
But, as I’ve said before, the worst wounds in politics are self-inflicted. And this is a doozy.

 

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08
It’s a sure sign a politician is in trouble: He gets a new press secretary, communications director or whatever you call it. So Governor McCrory shipped Kim Genardo to Commerce and replaced her with Josh Ellis.
 
I know nothing about the inner workings of this Governor’s Office, nor about the performance of his communications office. I knew Kim and Josh as reporters, and both are capable professionals.
 
I’ve seen this movie. For eight years (1976-1984), I was Governor Hunt’s press secretary. Every Monday morning, he met with his Cabinet and staff. Every meeting, every Cabinet secretary reported on the wondrous work being done in their departments. The conclusion was always self-evident and unanimous: “We’re not getting our story out.” Guess who was to blame.
 
The more likely problem here is substance, not spin. Performance, not PR.
 
Witness the coincidental announcement that DHHS gave a $3 million sole-source contract to a Washington consulting firm to fix the administration’s Medicaid problems.
 
Note that the N&O asked for public records regarding the contract eight weeks ago. “After repeated requests, Gov. Pat McCrory’s office released two documents Thursday evening; the Department of Health and Human Services released some of its records Friday evening, after issuing a news release about the Alvarez & Marsal contract.”
 
Ah, “Friday evening,” the classic dumping time for bad news.
 
No wonder DHHS and McCrory didn’t want anybody to know: The contract pays “$473 an hour for each of three principals of the firm, $394 an hour for each of three consultants, $242 an hour each for two analysts and $84 an hour for an intern.”
 
DHHS may have to hire a couple more 24-year-olds at $85,000 per year to supervise all its no-bid, personal services, sweetheart contracts.
 
Get to work, Josh. Your in-box is full.

 

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